Justice As a Verb – Putting the Love and Belonging into Creating Sustainable Communities

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Tompkins Weekly   5-8-24

By Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony

Most of us living in the United States have similar dreams, ambitions, cares, and concerns. We weep, laugh, and have pride in many of the same things. For some, though, (those who’ve been historically and systemically marginalized, brutalized, oppressed); we live in two separate nations. The first is where we are beautifully human and full of potential and possibilities. The second is about sustaining life itself in a country built for protecting and prospering whiteness and putting systems into place that  serve as gatekeepers against “other” being protected or prospering.

If we are choosing to do the work of putting justice in food systems…and operating for long term well-being; we must reassess our what, why, and how in the current food system. What makes a healthy food system accessible? Why don’t we already have healthy food systems accessible to all? What are the causal symptoms of the system’s inequities? And in the face of all of that, how do we create one which does serve us all? We should begin by asking ourselves what is the current social infrastructure that frames access to healthy food today? What kind of social infrastructure is needed to assure all ease of access to fresh nourishing food all the time?

Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony. Photo provided

Love: We must love more than we hate. We must accept more than we judge and dismiss. All human beings seek love and belonging. It is the lack of these which divides us more often than not. And in communities where love and belonging are treasured, the pursuit of justice will follow. You cannot have a community of people who know, love, and see one another who won’t also fight, serve with, and seek justice for those they love, see, and know.

Context: America’s design is unequal, inequitable, inhospitable to truth, and too often applies justice and access based on skin color and elitism. This, naturally, would (and does) have a horrific impact on the health and well-being of those who don’t fit the current paradigm of what, and who, is deemed acceptable. In addition there are the intersections of these judgements (poor and female, for instance or poor, female, and black in another instance).

Reality: Too often our realities don’t match up and our lack of understanding of those differing realities causes rage, poor communication, and limited progress and ultimately real world harm to groups, communities, and our dreams for what is sustainable practice in feeding our community members and beyond.

Breaking Chains: We’ve all been subject to, and victims of, social conditioning. It’s time we stopped being slaves to a system design that consistently fails to produce sustained access to healthy food and other means of sowing sustainable justice for all. There is enough to feed everyone healthily. There’s enough land, money, seed, and labor. Tear down the walls that stop you from seeing it, and stay abreast of what still needs doing. Turn your lives into verbs…always be actively learning, moving…to create. Focus energies on shepherding politicians from the beginning when they are still in our communities…grow them in the knowledge necessary to be staunch and loyal advocates committed to our cause (the sustainable food system that feeds all).

Building Anew: Building anew means improving our knowledge and understanding of each other. We must purposely seek to see each other. That kind of sustainable wholeness requires breaking down walls, socially conditioned notions of who someone is, and who you are in relation to them. We have to break the chains which hold us to unsustainable beliefs and practices.

If we want to build a sustainable future for land, sea, air, etc., we need to work together to build sustainable communications in our communities that are trusting, collaborative, and respectful of our essential selves. We must be better with each other (all other) before we can create a just food system that sustains us all.

Remember that even people from the same backgrounds assign different meanings to the same words and concepts. This is even more true of people who’ve lived different lives culturally, linguistically, racially, etc.

Keep in mind that people have different attachments to words like freedom, democracy, food, access…don’t assume you understand, or that you’ve been understood.

Finally, if we want to build a better food system that serves us all; we have to do the work of seeing through the lenses that may make us uncomfortable, tired, and even scared. There can be no evolution without conflict, change, or challenge. And that evolution of thought and action will serve as a movement toward systems that serve our environment, our land, our air, our water…our food. We will be grassroots organizations that hold up the leaders who commit to policy that serves the whole…that is, and will be, our social infrastructure. Systems that steward well-being from which will come a vital energy that pushes us ever forward to our sustainable future. Ase Selah (as it is spoken, so shall it be).

Gail Patrice Lockert Anthony of Black Soil Media has been seeding justice for over 30 years with her writing, workshops, retreats, and consulting. She works in community, and with co-ops to help individuals and groups find their “why,” so they can strategize their “how.”

Signs of Sustainability is organized by Sustainable Finger Lakes.

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